Waukesha, West Allis would qualify under new Walker school voucher program

CREATED Feb. 18, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb. 18, 2013

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WAUKESHA - Governor Walker is announcing a controversial plan that would expand school vouchers to families in suburbs like Waukesha and West Allis. 

Opponents call it a slap in the face to public schools. The governor says his plan gives low income students in struggling districts a shot at a better education.

Outside Waukesha Lowell elementary in Waukesha, Alanna Yarbro said she is pleased with her son’s public school education, but would put her fourth grader back in private school if she had the choice.

“I would do it, but so many of them are so expensive out there,” Yarbro said.

Governor Walker is on a statewide tour pushing initiatives he plans to unveil in his budget later this week, including an expansion of the controversial voucher program.

“For those families whose sons or daughters are going to a school that’s failing to meet expectations, we believe they should be given a viable alternative,” Walker said.

Right now, vouchers are available to low-income families in Milwaukee and Racine. The governor proposes expanding that to seven more school districts including Waukesha, West Allis, West Milwaukee, Kenosha, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac.

Voucher opponents stood outside what they called a failed charter school in Milwaukee.

“Any city in Wisconsin that’s considering voucher expansion, consider this: It will increase your property taxes. It will drain your public schools of funding,” said one parent.

The state senate minority leader says voucher schools are not under the same scrutiny as public schools.

“Because people don’t like our park system, we’re not giving vouchers for people to sign up for country clubs,” said Sen. Chris Larson. “So, why are we doing that for our schools?”

Gov. Walker has gotten pushback from some in his own party. He says he will negotiate a plan that will pass the Republican held senate and assembly.